Vaccinating your cat is incredibly important in helping to protect it against a number of potentially fatal diseases. It also helps reduce cat to cat spread of diseases in your area. Kittens can start their vaccinations from around 9 weeks of age and a second is given usually 3-4 weeks later. A yearly booster is then given for the rest of the cats life.
A Vaccination appointment should always be much more than a quick injection. It is an opportunity for you vet to give your cat a thorough check over from nose to tail an pick up any concerns. It is a chance for you, the owner to discuss any questions you may have about your cat. The cat will also be weighed and this recorded and discussed if there are concerning changes.
Vaccine protocols can vary year to year depending on if your cat lives indoors or goes outside. Regardless of what vaccination is given there is only one injection during the appointment.
The diseases cats should be vaccinated against are as follows:
Cat flu (feline herpes virus and feline calcivirus)
This can cause flu like symptoms such as a runny nose and eyes, sore throat, muscle and joint pain, mouth ulcers, sneezing and fever - very similar to a human with flu! This condition is particularly serious in kittens and can be fatal in severe cases.
Feline Infectious Enteritis
This occurs when cats are infected with feline Parvovirus. It spreads rapidly in unhygienic conditions and is often fatal especially in kittens. Symptoms are variable but can include vomiting, off food and water and diarrhoea.
Feline Leukaemia virus (outdoor cats or cats living with outdoor cats)
If your cat goes outside or lives with cats that go out side it is susceptible to FeLV. It is spread in saliva, urine and other fluids from infected cats. So licking, biting , sharing litter trays of food bowls can cause spread.
It is an incurable viral disease that as progresses becomes fatal . Cats unfortunately usually pass away within 4 years of being infected. This condition cannot spread to humans.
Symptoms can vary from a mild fever and lethargy to much more serious consequences developing over months and years.
The main affect of the disease is damage to white blood cells which are usually used to fight infections. This means the cat may struggle to fight off illnesses and the cat may catch frequent infections.
This virus also makes the cat more prone to blood cancer (lymphosarcoma) and 1/5 cats with FeLV die of cancer.
Luckily rabies does not occur in the UK but vaccination is important and necessary if you are taking your feline friend abroad. It is a viral disease that affects warm blooded animals including humans!
It is often fatal and very contagious and is transmitted through saliva often via a bite.
There are different rules and regulations depending on what country you are traveling to so always discuss with your vet in plenty of time before traveling as the vaccination often needs to be administered several weeks/ months before you travel.
This is not included in the core vaccines and is an optional extra. It causes feline Chlamydiosis which involves nasty eye infections and upper respiratory infections and is more common in kittens. Its rarely life threatening. Vaccination is a good idea for cats that are in multicast households, go to the catery or groomers. It is spread by sneezing. The vaccine reduces the symptoms of the condition but doesn't always completely prevent it.
Vaccines must go through vigorous safety trials before they can be licensed for use. They are considered very safe. Very occasionally an animal may have an adverse reaction such as a small temporary lump where the injection was given which disappears in a couple of weeks. More serious vaccine reactions have been documented but are very rare.
In my 15 years as a vet I have vaccinated thousands of cats and I have never witnessed any serious reaction to a vaccine. I always vaccinate my pets without any doubt and urge you to do the same to keep them protected against these nasty diseases.